Former 2:24 marathoner hoping to parlay a life overhaul at age 45 into competitive éclat • Magazine writer, book editor and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer • Sentence-fragment impresario
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Training, March 27 though April 2: Coxsmacked edition
Therefore, no legitimate reason exists for me to cut back on my workload in anticipation of a formal timed jogging event.
But I feel obligated to participate in that part of the charade as well, so I "rested" for a 5K that was supposed to be yesterday (Saturday) but was postponed by the management on Thursday afternoon to today (Sunday) thanks to a forecast involving serious snowfall. My rest wasn't especially restful, though. I didn't run much this week (five easy miles a day for the first four days of the week, then eight on Friday and four yesterday) but had to do a disproportionate amount of my work in the beginning of the week because Wednesday and Thursday were effectively shot thanks to preparing to travel and actually traveling.
In short, the SEA 5K (results) would have been a very unpleasant experience had I gone all-out, and was somewhat unsavory anyway. For one thing, I couldn't sleep worth a damn and actually didn't doze off until after 6 a,m, (the race was at 10 and my host and I left the house at 8:45). This is really my own fault. I'm an inveterate night owl -- I habitually do a lot of screwing around during the day at the expense of having to scramble to meet work deadlines after midnight, and biologically I'm still on Mountain Time to boot. It's common for me to be up until 2 or 2:30, and my "morning" runs are usually at noon or 1 p.m.
I was committed, however, to at least showing up at the event, and I'm glad I did, because it was a reunion of sorts, as I expected it would be. I did some of the warm-up with eventual second-placer and fellow CMSer Jim Johnson, a jovial and entertaining fellow, and we talked about all sorts of amusing things, many of which have been the subject of this blog over the years. (Jim's own recap of the race is here.) But I knew well before the race started that I wasn't going to be pushing very hard, and even if I had I don't think I would have gone all that much faster than I did (more on this sad fact below). I'm actually glad there were no splits given, or even any visible mile marks on the course. I couldn't have told you within 15 seconds a mile either way what my pace was until I saw the clock as I wobbled down the finishing stretch. I think I ran a little faster for the first mile than I did for the other two, but I'll never know
On the bright side, I seem to be developing a very strange niche: running the SEA 5K in odd-numbered years in close contact with longtime Coe-Brown Academy coach and friend Tim Cox's very quick 14-year-old daughter Addie. Two years ago, I caught up to her in the last half-mile and we ran around 18:55; this time, she caught up to me about a mile in and we ran 30 seconds faster. (Meanwhile, her 11-year-old brother Aidan was ahead of us en route to a 17:08. You read that right. The official world record for 11-year-old boys is 16:45.)
I was aghast to discover at the awards "cememony" that I had "won" the 45-to-49 age group. This is not a point of pride, obviously, but it affords me the opportunity to segue neatly into my primary thesis here, which is that age-group prizes in road races should be abolished, at least at the high end. It's just one more form of unwarranted handicapping, and it encourages people who might otherwise have the good sense to stay home and pound Cheetos and bourbon to continue showing up and making even more of a freak-show of the proceedings than they already are (and anyone who's ever attended a road race is painfully aware of the ghastly sort of turbocharged misfits these gatherings invariably feature).
Being given a bottle of maple syrup (today's swag) or a ribbon or even a handshake when you're a quarter of a mile behind the winner in a 5K race isn't motivating; it's humiliating, and it's an insult to the younger people far ahead of you who aren't given any special recognition despite whipping your ass because they weren't in the top three overall or whatever. You don't see 60-year-olds being given roster spots on Major League Baseball teams because a 73-MPH fastball "isn't bad for that age." (This is another of countless signs that distance running is a way for the AD/HD-afflicted and uncoordinated folks of society to blow off steam, not something that should serve as an avenue for anyone to earn varsity letters and athletic scholarships.)
Getting old isn't so bad. Running as a "sport" isn't the worst thing you can do with yourself either, given the range of ways to be a worthless screw-up in your life. But running races when you're getting old has to be among the most futile things I can think of. I have no idea how anyone who was ever remotely fast can enjoy competing once the chances of coming within even 10 percent of your best performances drops to zero. I'm actually in admiration of those who can do it, even as the AARP literature starts to dominate their mailboxes, because racing for me hasn't been about beating people since I left high school, it's been about reaching certain times.
What sucks is that I can't run ten miles a day without continually thinking about racing, and I can't *not* run ten miles a day without continually thinking about slashing the tires and breaking the windshields of every car I see, parked or otherwise. (Not really, but that visual seems to get the right point across.)
For the week I racked up 45 miles, 13 of them today (I ran six surprisingly pleasant miles tonight after watching "Girl Next Door," which was not without its charms).
Understand this: I doubt I had any better than a 17:30 in me this morning even had I run my absolute heart out. It is therefore a good thing that I didn't try, because if I had managed to confirm that I am incapable of anything faster than 5:40 pace for 5K right now, this whole silly quest would already be over, I was never very fast to begin with, but 17:30 is just a dogshit time for someone who ran over 2 1/2 minutes faster than that at age 34 and is not actually elderly or infirm, and nothing will ever dissuade me from this so there's no point in going there. I understand that I'm still only a few months into serious training, but if I am not running in the low 16's by fall or managing equivalent times in my wheelhouse distances, my racing shoes are going into a bonfire.
I'm also bored with this fucking blog, and I'm considering updating it once a month rather than weekly, excluding the random expulsions about other things I sometimes create. But having posted something every Sunday so far this year, I know that basic compulsion will have me continuing to do this.
Anyway, you'd never know it, but I'm glad I took part today. Troy, my host, manages to turn every conversation in these settings into a story about something both of us were involved in 30 years ago as members of a state champion cross-country team (he managed about a 21:30 today as a dreaded URO) and he doesn't hesitate to expand enthusiastically on such matters to people who were complete strangers to him mere seconds before.